The Rev. Kara Thompson Mejia and the Rev. Nelson Mejia were special guests at St. Margaret’s Anglican Church in Fredericton on June 18. It was their 15th of 16 visits to churches in New Brunswick and Ontario during their three months at home.
The couple leads Anglican worship, in Spanish, in Roatán, Honduras. Kara is originally from New Brunswick and is the daughter of Bell and the Rev. Gordon Thompson.
From their base in the Campbellton area, where they have stayed with the Thompsons, and their base in Wasaga Beach, Ontario, where Kara’s brother lives, they have set out each Sunday in a rental car to connect with parishes and individuals who support them, and share the story of their mission in Roatán.
Their final Sunday was spent at Christ Church Cathedral. They leave New Brunswick July 1, with a stop in Wasaga Beach to see their son, Stephen, who lives with his uncle while attending university. Then they fly back to Roatán July 5.
“In coming home, we continue to bring awareness of our mission work, so that the support is there,” said Kara. “I like to connect with supporters.”
It’s been five years since they’ve been home, due to COVID-19, said Nelson.
The pandemic was especially hard on their island, with so many people working in tourism. Roatán is a popular stop on the cruise circuit. With no travel or tourism, people were destitute, said Nelson.
They carved out space in the church, set up a kitchen and were blessed with donations of equipment and bags of food. The women of the church got involved, and the operation saw them feeding 300 a week people all around Roatán.
“For many, it was their only meal of the day,” said Kara.
They also gave out bags of staples like rice, which again were largely provided through donations.
“What we experienced was unbelievable,” said Kara. “We’d go to their homes with food and they’d start crying, saying ‘we’ve been praying to God, crying out to God, to be able to feed our families.’
“In those moments, God is so real. We see his tangible provisions.”
BUILDING THE MISSION
But feeding the hungry is not the focus of the mission in Roatán. During a presentation to St. Margaret’s parishioners, Kara gave some history.
After university, Kara followed her calling to serve in Latin America, arriving in Honduras in 1998. She met Nelson, they married and served in the capital city, but in 2006, their bishop asked them to go to Roatán, which had one small parish.
After many years of building, they have two congregations, two churches and a thriving ministry. It was nine years ago that they began construction of a new building that holds 200-250, and it’s nearly finished.
At the time, they had 10 people attending church.
“People asked why we were building so large a church,” said Kara. “As Nelson says, ‘if you have big visions, big visions will happen.’
“We have a big vision for our community. We went by faith, and God has been wonderful.”
Before the pandemic, they had more than 100 people attending, though the number is now around 60 as they work to regain what has been lost.
Their main focus is on empowering people to take care of themselves and others.
“People are hungry to learn in Honduras,” said Kara. “It’s a pleasure to teach them.”
FOCUS ON WOMEN
Much of Kara’s focus is on women, who often feel inferior and voiceless outside their homes. One way to combat that was with a “My Beloved” conference, which taught women who they are in Christ: his precious stones, his gems, his beloved.
They held a couples conference this spring, bringing husbands and wives together to work as a team. The task was to paint a picture, led by an artist, meant to illustrate that together, they could do beautiful things, and every time they looked at the painting, they would remember.
“All the paintings were amazing,” said Kara. “We put ours up on a wall. It’s what happens when you work together.”
It helped that a woman stood up in the conference and encouraged men to attend church with their wives, which is not common in Honduras. The result? Several men are now attending.
“Once they come, we start the teaching, the discipleship, the bible study, to discover who we are in Christ,” said Kara.
The discipleship training comes with a diploma, another great motivator.
MAKING A LIVING
Kara also has a focus on teaching marketable skills, and in this instance, God’s hand has been evident.
Four years ago, they had a call from a missionary from Mississippi who wanted to come and teach the art of fused glass to women. The vestry agreed, the missionary brought his supplies, and it went well.
“They’ve evolved with it,” said Kara. “They’re able to sell their wares. It empowers women to make a living. I’m very proud of them.”
The next step was to teach them English, so they could converse with the many cruise ship passengers. One day, a couple was shopping at their Roatán Glass Art booth, and when she saw what the women were doing and heard their story, she said to her husband, ‘when I die, I want all my jewelry to go to a group like this.’
The woman, Billie, subsequently died, and her husband returned to Roatán with her jewelry.
“Billlie’s gift began a micro industry,” said Kara, adding one of the women is learning how to make anklets with the jewelry.
Kara announced that through supporter generosity, their $13,000+ debt has been erased.
“But we want to maintain that,” she said. “We don’t want that to happen again.”
Kara asked for prayers for them, their family and their parishioners.
“Your prayers are what sustains us, even through the challenges we face with a young congregation. A lack of education does not help,” she said.
At the end of the service, the Rev. Rob Langmaid led a prayer for Kara and Nelson and their mission.
1. Three of the women involved in fused glass art, which they sell to tourists.
2. The Rev. Kara Mejia during her presentation to parishioners at St. Margaret's in Fredericton June 18.
3. The Rev. Kara and the Rev. Nelson Mejia at St. Margaret's.
4. A map shows where Kara and Nelson minister to the people of Roatán, Honduras.